Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Begging the question

It's almost time to get back to some more philosophizing, but first, yet another in the ever-popular series, Ranting About Language Misuses, soon to become a major motion picture (starring Tom Hanks as the dangling modifier).

"Begging the question" doesn't mean "raising the question". Fortunately, "raising the question" already means that, so we don't need another phrase that does.

"Begging the question" means a particular logical fallacy in which you, essentially, assume that the hypothesis is true in the process of proving the hypothesis. For example, it is begging the question to claim that abortion should be illegal because murder is illegal. Most forms of circular reasoning fallacies (e.g., "God must exist because the Bible says so, the Bible must be true because God created it") are also begging the question.

It's bad enough people don't understand logical fallacies, without also subsuming their names for a perfectly ordinary thing for which we already have a perfectly functional phrase.

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